(Part 36)

April 28, 2014
Today’s reading:  Acts 4:23-31

Our theme this year is Empowered to Witness, taken from 2 Timothy 1:7-8. “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” This was manifested in the life of the apostles.

They were threatened by the Sanhedrin. The powers-that-be were arrayed against them–“Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (v.27b). Reminds us of Obama and the US government, the EU, the UN, billionaire philanthropists, international liberal media, and all the other worldly powers that are today arrayed against faith, family and life. “The kings of the earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed.” (v.26). “The Gentiles rage” (v.25b) especially against the holy Roman Catholic Church, being the only strong institution still standing in the way of their demonic assault.

But the disciples then did not cower, did not give in to cowardice. Rather, they were bold in proclaiming the gospel. They “continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (v.31b). What made this possible?

First, they turned to God. “And when they heard it, they raised their voices to God with one accord” (v.24a). They brought their challenges and difficulties before God, and asked Him to take care of them. “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness” (v.29). Let us always cling to Jesus and trust in him.

Second, they had confidence in what God could do and would do for them and through them. After all, God is “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them.” (v.24b). After all, they had been called and they had been sent. They had been commissioned. They were doing very important divine work. They were confident in what would accompany their mission, “as you stretch forth your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (v.30).

Third, they prayed for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. “As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit” (v.31a). The Holy Spirit provides empowerment for mission. Such is great power. On Pentecost the Spirit came with fire and noise like a strong driving wind. This time the very place where they prayed shook. Fire, strong wind, earthquake–all were signs of the presence of God.

So there will be hardship in this work, but we bear it with the strength of God. We are not to be ashamed of our testimony to our Lord. We are not to cower, even in the face of world powers raging against us. “Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed” (v.27a). World powers on their side; God on ours. No contest!

We are empowered to witness. Let us then speak with all boldness.

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